Jewish names were six of 'Hollywood 10'

COMPOSITE CHARACTER: Louis CK as Arlen Hird, a composite of five of the six Jewish members of the Hollywood 10

WHILE the main character in Jay Roach's latest film is not Jewish, many of those affected by the issues raised were.

Trumbo, which opens in cinemas this week, is based on the Hollywood blacklist which saw actors, writers and directors barred from working because of supposed links to communism.

Trumbo is the story of Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), who was Hollywood's highest paid, most respected screenwriter when his career came crashing down around him because of his political beliefs.

He had supported unions and the civil rights movement, but had also joined the Communist Party.

In 1947, with anti-communist hysteria rampant in America, Trumbo and several of his colleagues were hauled before the House of Un-American Activities Committee.

His refusal to answer their questions landed him in jail for contempt for 11 months and when he came out, his career was in ruins.

Suspicion fell on Jewish film stars, writers and directors, in particular, resulting in studio heads, mostly Jewish themselves, created a 'blacklist' of people who would be barred for 13 years from working in film due to suspected communist sympathies.

Trumbo was top of the "Hollywood 10" targeted by HUAC and later blacklisted, but six others were Jewish - Alvah Bessie, Herbert Biberman, Lester Cole, John Howard Lawson, Albert Maltz and Samuel Ornitz.

The film reveals a startling undercurrent of antisemitism.

Comedian Louis CK plays Arlen Hird, a composite of five of the six Jewish members of the Hollywood 10, who wrote under assumed names.

Michael Stuhlbarg plays Jewish actor Edward G Robinson, who was unable to work despite co-operating with the HUAC.

"The toughest decision was Edward G Robinson's, because he couldn't hide anywhere," said Roach, who was born a Southern Baptist, but converted to Judaism to marry musician Susanna Hoffs.

"I love the scene where Michael Stuhlbarg says, 'Look at my face. This is my work. This is who I am. I don't get to walk around and be somebody else'.

"That choice, that's the hardest. I love that crisis of soul that Edward G Robinson represents, where they say, 'Keep going with your career. All you have to do is come in and co-operate a little bit. Name some names of people who have already been named. What do you have to lose? You're not going to hurt anybody?' or, 'Go away, never to be seen again'.

"So he made a choice, and he talked about it in his autobiography, how difficult that choice was. He was a very conflicted guy."

The blacklist was broken when Kirk Douglas and director Otto Preminger boldly put Trumbo's name as screenwriter on their respective 1960 blockbusters, Spartacus and Exodus.

The antisemitic undercurrent of the era is illustrated during a scene in Trumbo in which Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren) threatens MGM head Louis B Mayer (Richard Portnow), using an antisemitic term and hinting she will use his Jewish heritage against him.

Watch the trailer for Trumbo at

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